How to make Citrix a "Must Have" for the Small-Medium Market

In this article, we focus a ten ways that Citrix can begin to add value again to the basic Terminal Server platform and recapture some of the small to medium market.

As Terminal Server and other third-party products incorporate features such as published applications, portal integration and load balancing, Citrix is seeing its value-add to Terminal Server decrease in the small to medium business (SMB) market. In this article, we focus a ten ways that Citrix can begin to add value again to the basic Terminal Server platform and recapture some of the small to medium market.

As Citrix and Terminal Server consultants, we’re often asked what Citrix adds to Terminal Server that justifies its extra licensing costs and possibly an investment in some extra hardware. Up until a year ago or so the answer to this question was easy. Citrix gave you published applications, high color resolution, client printer access, better access to client devices, a web interface, a secure way to access the servers, and seamless windows. Even small customers could realize significant value by using Citrix.

Terminal Services in Windows Server 2003 further eroded the list of Citrix add-ons that were relevant in small and medium environments. These companies must now weigh the cost of Citrix MetaFrame licenses against a list of features that now only include published applications with seamless windows, load balancing, a web portal, and a secure proxy to the servers. While Citrix is really the only solution that offers the management and scaling tools required in enterprise environments, the features required by the majority of small and medium businesses are slowly being added by Microsoft themselves or other third-party vendors that have a much lower per-user cost. In addition, Microsoft is publicly admitting that the next version of Terminal Server will have published applications, moving Terminal Services directly into Citrix’s SMB space—a space that for many years turned to Citrix for those features that made Citrix what it is today.

SMB customers have always been and will continue to be different from enterprise customers.

Is it all about access?

Citrix’s new marketing strategy focuses access to applications. While access from multiple devices via multiple avenues is definitely the future of our business, most SMB customers don’t care about this. They want to know what they’re getting for their money right now, in six months, and in the next year. Plus, these small clients are usually just trying to get access to a few applications. They want a specific set of features which generally doesn’t include huge amounts of management and access tools.

Small and medium businesses don’t have 50 or 100 servers in multiple locations with hundreds of applications and multiple admin teams. Instead, they have probably 1 to 15 servers in a single location with one or two administrators. These customers don’t need delegated management, Citrix policies, multiple zones, complex load balancing, or scalability into the hundreds of servers. They need the basic functionality of Terminal Services with a few additions.

Since Microsoft has closed the Terminal Services functionality gap in Windows 2003 and cheaper third party-products are offer published applications and other features, small and medium customers are moving from Citrix to either pure Terminal Services systems or Terminal Services systems with other less expensive and less feature-rich third-party products.

In order to keep these clients, Citrix needs to improve their base Presentation Server product rather than trying to wrap a ton of other products around it that customers may not want to pay for. When Citrix was in its heyday, they were the only choice if you wanted published applications and web access to those applications. Since then, they’ve ignored (or didn’t find important right away or didn’t want to upset their partners) all the other “little” features that several vendors popped up to create (like universal Print drivers, desktop configuration tools, process throttling, etc).

With that in mind, Brian and I came up with numerous ways that Citrix can improve on their base Presentation Server product. These features, changes, and suggestions really revolve around making Terminal Server function better and making the Citrix products more enticing for SMB clients. We believe that in order to remain a huge market force and be that “must have” software again in the SMB space, Citrix should return to its roots and spend a little time making its product do what Terminal Server should do. The following list contains the top 10 improvements to the core product that we believe would launch Citrix back into the small to medium space.

Ten Changes / Improvements Citrix should make to MetaFrame Presentation Server

  1. Create a MetaFrame Presentation Server “Lite”
  2. Include process throttling or prioritization and memory optimizations for applications
  3. Productize hybrid profiles and move them into XPa and XPe
  4. Add session hibernation for disconnected or idle sessions
  5. Add the ability to move live sessions from one server to another
  6. Integrate “Go To My Desktop” into the Web Interface
  7. Include a desktop lock down and configuration tool
  8. Add the ability to publish applications to specific workstations or IP subnets
  9. Drop the Price of XPs and XPa
  10. Stop pitching “other” products to Terminal Server people

Each of these items adds an enormous amount of value to the Terminal Server platform and would push Citrix past its peers, even with the persistent Bear Paw rumors.

Lets take a look at each feature individually and see what it would bring to the customer and possibly how it could be done from a technical stand point.

Create MetaFrame Presentation Server “Lite”
Microsoft has successfully packaged together many of their enterprise server products into a simple to manage and less expensive product called Small Business Server. Citrix should follow suit and create a “Lite” or “Small Business” version of MetaFrame Presentation Server. This would be much different than today’s MetaFrame XPs product. It should include:

  • Load balancing abilities (but only with the built-in load evaluators)
  • Ability to publish applications and use file extensions
  • A lighter CMC/MMC with certain nodes removed
  • The ICA perfmon counters (but none of the other Resource Manager features)
  • A universal print driver
  • The “other” standard MetaFrame Presentation Server features, including web interface, secure gateway, and SafeWord integration.

What should be removed for MetaFrame Lite?

  • The ability to delegate administration
  • No zone configuration (All servers would reside in a single zone)
  • No advanced management tools
  • No print driver replication
  • No Citrix user policies
  • No custom load evaluators
  • No reporting tools, network management, installation management, or resource management.

MetaFrame Presentation Server Lite should be priced at a lower cost to better compete with other products while still adding value to the existing Terminal Server product. Citrix might even want to consider selling this as a per server or per processor model, or these farms could be limited to 5-10 servers and would require a license upgrade to get larger.

Allowing customers to access to these “advanced” features of MetaFrame Lite at a reasonable price brings Citrix back into the fold for small businesses today. With the trend in IT to do more with less, small business administrators may have to make a choice to spend their additional $15,000 in their budget on a new antivirus system, spam filter, or client management software instead of 50 Citrix CALs. An affordable small business version of MetaFrame where the features are worth $1500 per processor or $100-125 per user brings Citrix back in the game for SMBs.

Include Process Prioritization and Memory Optimization for Applications
An instant value-add for any client would be the ability to control processes and processor utilization at the published application level. Currently neither Citrix nor Terminal Services alone offer this. Imagine changing the properties of a published application (not in some other interface) and editing its target, adding users, then setting an execution profile for X amount of processor and Y memory, or checking the “Bad Application” check box. Instant value add, big bonus over native Terminal Server, and none of the other competitors (Jetro, Tarantella, etc.) are doing it.

Productize the Hybrid Profile System
For almost a year and half we have heard that this might, someday, one day, if possible, become a product. Well if there was ever a time for it its now. More clients out there need this product. Citrix Consulting Services and RapidApp are the only two companies who can implement the “official” Citrix Hybrid Profile System. Many times this is cost prohibitive or customers aren’t even aware that this “product” exists.

By adding the ability to run Citrix Hybrid Profiles on any MetaFrame system Citrix would solve a problem that has plagued Terminal Server users since 1998. Talk about adding a feature to basic Terminal Server. This itself would be a huge benefit for many customers. Want to put Citrix back on top with a feature that no one else has? This could be one of them.

Session Hibernation for Disconnected or Idle sessions
This feature would allow a disconnected or timed out session to hibernate like a laptop. Basically, using the laptop idea, a session would time out or disconnect as normal then after the timeout expires the session would be written to a hibernation file (like when laptop hibernates). Then, if the user reconnects, this hibernation file would be reactivated and the user would be reconnected to this session.

The beauty of this is that the session resources are released when the session hibernates instead of just having to disconnect or reset the user. Also, a timestamp could be placed on the hibernation files and a second timeout could be added to these files allowing administrators to limit these hibernations to 24 or 48 hours.

Ability to move live sessions from one server to another
This feature could tie into the previous one. I mean if you can write a session to a file why not use that ability to move users to a new server. Citrix already has a disconnected session configuration that allows for auto reconnection. Why not be able to send a message to all the clients that they will be disconnected for a few seconds. During this time the sessions are saved to files. When the client begins its auto-reconnect the source server has its logons disabled and users are routed to another server. This target server picks up the hibernation files (maybe out of the home directory) and restarts the user’s sessions.

For administrators running 24-hour shops like hospitals this tool would be completely invaluable and more than likely justify the cost of Citrix on its own.

Integrate Go to My Desktop into the Web Interface
With the acquisition of GoToMyPC, we’ve been anxiously awaiting the “Go To My Desktop” button in the Web Interface. Even today’s biggest MetaFrame environments do not have 100% of their applications on MetaFrame Presentation Servers. The vast majority are hybrid environments that fat clients and thin client devices. Why not utilize the security features of Web Interface and MetaFrame Secure Gateway to integrate a GoToMyPC option. With this, users could use the Web Interface to access MetaFrame applications or their own personal desktop workstation from anywhere in the world.

Include a desktop lockdown and configuration tool
Most people are surprised that Citrix hasn’t yet created a tool like this. The basic idea is to give small business administrators the ability to configure a user’s entire desktop environment from a simple interface. While most companies with large environments have staff experienced in scripting, creating group policies, customizing desktops at login, and modifying the user environment, most small company administrators struggle with this on a daily basis. We can’t even begin to tell you how many questions we see in the public groups that a small tool like this could fix.

This tool should have the ability to do the following:
• Configure the desktop background
• Configure desktop icons and mark the icons or the entire desktop as read/execute only
• Configure customized start menus that can be marked as read/execute or modifiable
• Configure folder redirection for My Documents and Application Data
• Change client registry settings environmental variables at login
• Select which drives are visible or hidden
• Ensure that users cannot run unauthorized applications

Of course you can do each of these things now with scripting or resource kit tools. This desktop configuration tool would instead provide a nice configuration GUI front end. Ideally this tool would tie into the Hybrid Profile System, creating a complete profile management system as part of MetaFrame.

Ability to publish applications to specific clients or IP subnets
Only one other company is currently doing this. This is great for kiosk machines or environments that have roaming users (like hospitals). The nice thing about this is it would provide more security than a “guest” account in web interface, and would also allows customers to limit anonymous applications to specific locations within a network without having to do a ton of Web Interface (ASP and VBS) customization. Why doesn’t everyone do this?

Drop the price of MetaFrame Presentation Server XPs and XPa
Okay, so technically this isn’t a “feature,” but it is a reality. Citrix is pretty much twice the price of anyone else in their space. Don’t get me wrong I truly believe that Citrix also has four times the number of features that everyone else has even in the “s” and “a” versions. But features that small clients don’t need are useless features.

Let’s examine this from a pure sales perspective. I was once told that I get half of what my brother sells in his business card business. The problem is that he never sold many because his cards were twice the price of everyone else’s (even though his quality was way higher). Guess what I got half of? Half of almost nothing. That’s the problem Citrix will have in the SMB market in the future. They will provide a best-in-class product that has a billion features. The problem is that the client they may be trying to sell to only needs 10 features.

They should make it more enticing. Drop the price of CALs for XPs and XPa and give the buyers a tough choice instead of an easy one. Get a chance to make your argument by getting in the door. Just like a fry cook is not going to spend much time at the Jaguar dealer looking for a new car, small businesses are not going to spend much time looking at a product that they know they can’t even come close to justifying. But if they can say it’s a reasonable price for a huge benefit, that’s an argument a business manager understands.

Stop pitching “other” products to Terminal Server people
Citrix has five products now: MetaFrame Presentation Server, MetaFrame Secure Access Manager, MetaFrame Conferencing Server, MetaFrame Password Manager, and GoToMyPC/GoToAssist.

Citrix’s core market has always been their Presentation Server. Citrix should stop trying to bundle unrelated products into an Access Suite with no strong message and instead should pitch each product to the “proper” targets.

Terminal Server people don’t fundamentally care about Content Delivery Agents, and vice versa.


Brian and I basically brainstormed all of these features over the course of about 30 minutes. Citrix has surely thought of some of these on their own, but we’re hoping that Citrix takes these suggestions to heart. Is there anything we’ve missed? Add your comments below.

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This message was originally posted by BogdanSUA on April 7, 2004
I would like to see them support USB devices. Examples could include PDA Synching, USB flash drives, etc.
This message was originally posted by agressiv on April 7, 2004
Amen to that list. However,I'd say at least the price reductions might become a reality if Bear Paw delivers - otherwise Citrix will probably lose quite a bit of their Subscription Advantage renewals when people decide to dump Citrix. The only catch with Bear Paw is that it will require 2003 Enterprise Server, but if people are doing Session Directory already, its moot.

I personally think ALL of the players in this marketspace are WAY overpriced, even Tarantella is now way too expensive in my opinion. $30-$50 a user max, regardless of size, would be much more realistic, and a per-processor would also be nice, something like $2000/processor.

We held off on Citrix and New Moon because of Bear Paw - its too hard to jusify a $500K purchase when Bear Paw will (probably) be free for us. For now, a non-seemless Terminal Server works just fine, and we have F5 BIG-IP load balancers which were also pretty cheap.
This message was originally posted by Ron Oglesby on April 8, 2004
Hudson changes everything. A lot of talk this week at MS (if you can beleive this) was how everyone (EVERY MVP WE TALKED WITH) believed that no one touched Citrix in the Enterprise space. One thing to remember is when it comes to more than 15-20 servers no one touches Citrix. With that said expect BIG communication changes in Hudson. I am doing some writeups right now on architecting for Hudson and will even be giving some presentations on it. Once they are available I will post them here (oh and you will see a "bridgehead like" communication"
This message was originally posted by Ron Oglesby on April 8, 2004
Well thats not really true. While you can create the evaluator to LIMIT users to where they can access the app from. what I cant do is say "everyone on the 10.x.y.z subet gets access to this app. Imagine hitting NFuse or PNa. It passes a client IP (easily spooefed I know, dont get me started I had enough security talk this week). Anyway based on that client IP a application is returned. NO SIGN IN AT ALL. Much like hospitals that publish 90% of their apps anonymously this to would be anon BUT anon to specific subnets Like this app for the ER, this app for HR, this app for Accounting... get it?

This message was originally posted by MTB on April 8, 2004
All these are great suggestions - many of which we have been asking for years. However, # 10 hold close to my heart. Ever since the inception of "NFuse Elite", I have been trying to figure out where this product fits and haven't been able to do so yet. As a consultant and working with Citrix Partners, it almost seems that Citrix is die-hard, full-steam-ahead-set on shoving this product down it's customers' throats.
This message was originally posted by MTB on April 8, 2004
Guys - Your input and ideas are what keep me coming back to this site to look for new content. Thanks for the great info.

As for pulishing apps to specific IPs, it is possible to do this (to some extent) using a custom load evaluator for client IP address and assigning that LE to a specific published app.
This message was originally posted by Dru on April 8, 2004
I'm finding it difficult to place Citrix into the overall solution for a large client in terms of Client <-> Server redirection. Word URL's dont redirect properly (M$ fault but users dont care), and there is no intelligence at the Citrix client end to detect whether an application is local before running up the Citrix farm route. There needs to be more development in this area so that user experience is seamless regardless of the application delivery method. There's a lot of other stuff that "could" be on this list (maybe Hudson removes this need but a bridgehead server setting for ZDC's would be nice) but in a hybrid FAT/thin environment the user experience must be the same (or better!)
This message was originally posted by Ron Oglesby on April 7, 2004
AS for USB, you can be sure we are talking to MS this weekend and making sure that the TS team knows how important it is as a client device. Cant give you any HUGE details but I can say MS understands that ALL devices are important even if they arent in the product right now.

As for Bear Paw requiring 2003 Enterprise Server... I have no idea. Literally. and I don't beleive there is any problem saying, that while I have seen tons of new stuff this week I have not seen anything that said 2003 Enterprise Server would be required for anything other than what it is used for now (meaning session directory).

2003 Enterprise Server
This message was originally posted by Brian Madden on April 7, 2004
I don't necessarily agree that Bear Paw would require the Enterprise Edition of Windows 2003. I mean sure you'd need that to reconnect to disconnected sessions, but not every would do that--especially in the SMB space. Plus, there ar third-party software load balancers (like those from for only a few hundred dollars per server. This is much cheaper than buying the Enterprise Edition of Terminal Server just for several thousand dollars.
This message was originally posted by Jennifer on April 12, 2004
They really need to get Go ot my PC in the product. I'm in a large environment and we have to publish the RDP client for users now so they can hit their XP boxes. It would be great to run that type of connectivity over ICA and get the extra compression and some additional passthough functionality.
This message was originally posted by Peter on April 10, 2004
Thay have too many reasons not to (some of them are built-in to their sales executives mindset...) and the most importnat one is their stock. Think about it and see that it will never happen. having said that, other vendors will probably add functionality AND reduce prices, targeting the SMB customers and crawling into large/r enterprise accounts.
This message was originally posted by an anonymous visitor on April 14, 2004
Way buy CITRIX ????????
Buy Jetro
This message was originally posted by Freddie on April 15, 2004
That’s is maybe a bold statement but I think it’s true.
If you look at Citrixs product developments the last couple of years it’s all leaning torch enterprise solutions and after have discussed the issue whit a friend at Citrix I believe it even more.
If I take the Nfuse development as an example.
It started whit Nfuse classic, then it went to Nfuse elite and now we are at the MetaFrame Secure Access Manager, as you see they have more and more developed the “portal” product against a enterprise solution.
At the same time Microsoft have slowly and steady developed TS to have more and more “old Citrix solutions” and in that way positioning it self as the one of the best SBC solution for SMB companies whit fewer then 15 TS servers.
I rely believe that this is a planed strategy and a collaboration between Citrix and MS.
See ya...
This message was originally posted by Brian Madden on April 14, 2004
I'll give you a week to post an insightful comment as to why you feel Jetro is better? If you don't post back, I'm going to pull the first post.
This message was originally posted by Freddie on April 19, 2004
Yes, Nfuse elite is not an upgrade of Nfuse classic but Nfuse elite is very much a result and a attempt to expand the use of Nfuse classics concept. In the beginning elite was planed, maybe not to take over all the classic installations but concentrate on the larger enterprises that used classic before, that is way I believe you can use my analogy. As you say, elite was a portal in a box and the customers didn’t find it necessary to buy elite and it have almost disappeared from the market, but still the classic/elite analogy fits very well in a description that Citrix leaning towards enterprise solutions and leaving the smaller customers to Microsoft.

Question: Can you be so kind and explain why you don’t think that MSAM is a good enterprise solution?

see ya...
This message was originally posted by Ron Oglesby on April 18, 2004
While I agree that Citrix's focus is the larger environments, I dont beleive that your NFuse anology is anywhere near valid. I mean Nfuse Elite WAS NOT an upgrade to NFuse. It was Portal in a box. Nfuse's progression was NFuse 1.0-Nfuse 1.5, 1.16, 1.7 - Web Interface, etc, etc. Rolling in NFuse Elite (A portal in a box idea that never sold) then they backed off, looked at the market where everyone used NFuse and CSG, rolled them in with the NFuse Elite and called it MSAM (Yes with a few additions and better security but this is what it is). Makes me wonder when I am going to see the Extranet setups again... its called re-packaging code no one wanted anyway. As for the enterprise, the reason I dont see the analogy as valid is becuase enterprises using citrix are not falling over them selves for MSAM. Have I used MSAM? Yes. Do I have customers with it? Yes in the smaller farms. Enterprises want enterprise class technology. MSAM is not an enterprise class portal. In addition in enterprises they guys that look at Citrix have NOTHING to do with the portal selection. Often the Citrix and portal guys are forced to work together and 99.999999% of the times the Citrix guys jsut wind up cusomtizing NFuse code to integrate into the corproate portal. (which is you have more than 1000 users is 99.9999% NOT going to be MSAM)
This message was originally posted by Alexander Ervik Johnsen on April 15, 2004
An option that several customers have asked about is the ability to have a pdf made report, directly from the Resource Manager.
Also build full support for pdf generation, as known to all that have tried, to repackage the Adobe Full version is a almost impossible task... so that would be a great feature also... both for admins and users..
This message was originally posted by an anonymous visitor on April 20, 2004
If you all don't already know the new version of Citrix Presentation server is ready for release and we will see it soon, very soon. There will be some features that sets it further apart, 1 in particular that is something terminal services only wishes it could do and a few others that will make admins very happy. The msam comment about it not being an enterprise solution may have some justification but in our enterprise it fits perfectly. It fits the number 1 enterprise solution demand and that is role based access. Also I believe you will see a possible addition of an Appsense-like product if what I hear is true. You guys are awesome though thanks.
This message was originally posted by Darren Carey on April 20, 2004
Being a long time Citrix user and fan I believe recently they have lost focus on what made them so great. The core Metaframe Product. What they need to do is to go out and buy either Appsense/Tricerat or like companies and integrate into Metaframe XP ASAP. We'd all love to have these products on all our TS boxes by default but cannot always justify the extra expense although wouldn't mind paying a bit more on top of xp for these. That way they quickly put a country mile between themselves and all other products, and gives us what i feel should be part of Metaframe anyway.
This message was originally posted by JK on April 19, 2004
Not sure what one product you are referring to that does this but we have had the ability to publish apps to a client or ip on with or without Citrix using Emergent Online's Appportal for quite some time. I can't understand why this product isn't selling like crazy....

This message was originally posted by GeorgeK on April 24, 2004
I'd just had a presentation for PS v3.0 and it looks like at least one of your suggestions made it.

I agree that the pricing is often difficult to swallow for small(er) bussiness, but then again they do offer some unique (or better implemented) features and have the most comprehensive solution available.

The decision in favour of Citrix usually hangs on verry few features, often just one or two, that are on the 'must have' list of the client and for which there is no sound alternative (yet).

I think Citrix should make cut XPs alltogether and replace it by something like XPa Limited (with SBS restrictions).

Restricting the zones to just one sound like a good idea, but with the upcoming new licensing mechanism even smaller business could need more then one zone.
This message was originally posted by Flaminio Guerrero on August 24, 2004
The Tricerat suite offers an strong feature set easy to use and practical management tools that cover all and even more of the here proposed "Must Have" features.
An Enterprise Tricerat User.
This message was originally posted by Davide Galanti on October 7, 2004
Ron and Brian are right: this list is right, but I also suggest to put all the stuss in one bag. As we get Secure Gateway with Presentation Server, we should get all the products they do. At least in XPe version. Citrix should be as far as possible from RDP 6.0 adding all its stuff, all its technology to one good, big, full featured product. And RDP will be unreacheable.